At the two-day Sustainable YOU conference in progress in Tallahassee, Florida, one of the star speakers the standing room audience was listening to intently was Mayor Bob Dixson of Greensburg, Kansas.
Dixson explained how his small town of 900 turned the wrath of a tornado into an opportunity for sustainable development. Until 2007, the only significant thing of interest in Greensburg was its Big Well and a meteorite in the local museum.
Then an EF5 tornado ripped the town apart in 2007, and forced the town to think about how to rebuild. They decided to go green in a big way, and make the town live up to its name.
To facilitate this, they formed Greensburg Greentown – a non-profit that helps the community and businesses start fresh with eco-friendly construction and a green lifestyle with energy saving homes.
Today, the aptly named Greensburg is a model town for sustainable development and an economy based on how green they are.
“We’d like to see Greensburg become the ecotourism capital of the world,” says Mayor Bob Dixson. “Companies can bring their customers here to see sustainable building products and all kinds of eco-friendly businesses. We want to be a living laboratory.”
They have the largest number of per capita LEED certified buildings in the world. They have a GreenTour Book that tells visitors about their green buildings, and helps them plan a green itinerary when visiting the town.
They’re also actively seeking out investments and enticing businesses in the green economy to set up shop in Greensburg. One such example is BTI Wind Energy, whose parent company is Canada’s Endurance Corporation. BTI, a manufacturer of wind turbines, is now headquartered in Greensburg.
Greensburg, KS is definitely America’s greenest small town, and their particular brand of person-to-person sustainable development is likely the best cure for what ails most recession-hit communities searching for jobs, private investment and some direction.